(File photo courtesy of Alex Baaco)

The provincial government has urged shuttles or van operators to file an appeal before the Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for an exemption to the implementation of the approved five-year Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) that disallows vans on national highways.

Provincial Planning and Development Officer (PPDO) Nimfa Rubio, head of the LPTRP technical working group, explained that based on the Omnibus guidelines of the national government, only buses are allowed in the national highways.

After a series of revisions of the LPTRP, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the regional Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) finally gave their approval and issued a notice of compliance (NOC) on June 4, 2020. However, a number of public utility vehicles would be affected.

“Kung ipapasa na ang provincial ordinance [to implement new routes] ay maraming maapektuhan na mga shuttles or PUV kasi allowed na lang sila sa connector or mostly secondary roads, provincial roads ‘yan. Kaya para matugunan ang problema na ‘yan, nalaman din namin na maraming colorums kasi matagal na ang approval ng ating local route plan. We are pressured to pass,” Rubio said.

According to Rubio, this is the first local transport plan of the province that is expected to give systematic, and organize traffic situation in the province.

Considering the structure of Palawan where there are no alternate roads, Rubio said they consulted the national government and found out that there is a transitory provision in the omnibus guidelines of DOTr.

“Upon consultation sa DOTr, ang Omnibus Guidelines ay mayroon na palang transitory provision na three years, siguro naman maayos na rin nila ang mga problema nila at ang makabibigay lang ng exemption ay ‘yong LTFRB, sila ang mag-a-analize ng situation,” Rubio said.

“Pwede sila mag-appeal na i-adjust ang effectivity ng transitory period kasi ang baseline ay 2019 pa. Kung na-approve ang appeal nila pwedeng ngayong 2021 mag-take effect, bago pa mag-start ang three years na ‘yon,” she said.

Rubio said that under the route plan, PUVs are only allowed in secondary roads.

All colorums shuttle vans are urged to organize a cooperative and expedite the application for franchise as the provincial government is set to implement the route plan this year.

“Sa loob ng three years na ‘yan pwede na nila maayos ang mga dapat nila ayusin. Kung walang franchise, mag-organize sila ng cooperative at palakasin nila. Mas madali silang mabibigyan ng franchise,” Rubio explained.

In Palawan, there are 853 shuttle vans, of which only 148 have franchise and 68 are classified as tourist transport van. The remaining vans are considered colorums.

Rubio said that they have to pass the ordinance as soon as possible.

“Local government tayo and we are governed by national law, sana mapass na ang ordinance hopefully this year,” she said.

According to the notice of compliance signed by LTFRB Regional Franchising and Regulatory Office (RFRO) No. IV regional director Col. Renwick Rutaquio, the approved routes (vice versa), authorized mode of transportation (Public Utility Jeep (PUJ)/Public Utility Bus (PUB)/Mini/MeterBus(Mbus)/ Utility Vehicles (UV) Express and number of vehicles are as follows:

• San Jose, Roxas to Port Barton (PUJ- eight units)
• Calauit, Busuanga to Coron (UV Express- 22 units)
• Puerto Princesa City to El Nido (PUB- 125 units)
• Puerto Princesa City to Buliluyan, Bataraza (PUB-159 units)
• Puerto Princesa City to Sicud, Rizal (PUB- 53 units)
• Coron Poblacion to New Quezon, Busuanga (MBus-19 units)
• Itabiak, Roxas to San Vicente (MBus-10 units)
• Sta. Teresita, Dumaran to Abongan (MBus- eight units)
• Magara, Roxas to Caruray, San Vicente (MBus- four units)
• Abo-abo, Sofronio Espanola to Quezon (Filcab- five units)
• Sicud, Rizal to Sandoval, Bataraza (PUJ- 15 units)

“Halos existing route naman ang nakalagay dyan kaya lang naging formalized lang sya. Kung anong number of units ang dyan ay dapat hindi dyan mag-exceed, kung kailangan man dagdagan ay dapat pang i-request at ma-approve,” she said.

According to Rubio, the LPTRP will help to implement appropriate transport routes based on passenger demand and to formalize different routes in Palawan to lessen colorum vehicle operation on national highways.

“Mas magiging maganda ang flow ng traffic. Of course, mababawasan din ang number of colorum vehicles natin dahil magkakaroon na nang application for a franchise. Magiging legal ang pagbiyahe,” she said.

In 2017, the transport sector in Palawan faced franchising issues due to the crackdown by the authorities against the colorum vehicles.

Recently, the committee on transportation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan discussed the implementation of the LPTRP.